Building Stress Resilience in AFL Athletes
Ben Serpell, the Performance Coach at Geelong FC with extensive experience in elite sports environments, including rugby and Australian Rules football, as well as individual athlete coaching and high-performance consultancy for Olympic sports, highlights the importance of “Building Stress Resilience AFL” in the highly competitive world of Australian Rules Football (AFL). In this article, he shares insights into the key elements of stress resilience for AFL athletes.
Highlights of the episode:
- Why do you need mentors to develop you technically and sponsors to advocate for you
- Doing lifting before running and how it boosts testosterone and energy
- Building emotional resilience in AFL
- What a good primer session for young athletes looks like
- Recovery tips to help athletes mentally and physically recover after a football match
Mentors and Sponsors
Ben Serpell emphasizes the significance of mentors and sponsors in the career development of AFL athletes. These two roles play distinct but equally vital parts in an athlete’s journey. Mentors provide support and guidance, aiding in skill development and overall growth. Sponsors, on the other hand, are advocates who open doors to new opportunities. While these roles can be fulfilled by the same person, they often differ in their approach.
Serpell credits individuals like Dean Benson and John Pryor as instrumental figures in his career. They have not only offered technical guidance but have also acted as mentors, helping him develop as a professional in the AFL arena.
Strength Training for Performance
One notable aspect of Serpell’s discussion is the incorporation of strength training before football training. He highlights the science behind this practice, emphasizing its impact on the neurological and hormonal systems. By boosting testosterone levels through pre-training strength sessions, athletes can enhance their on-field performance and overall learning experience.
While there may be cultural shifts required to fully embrace this approach in AFL, it is already in practice in other sports such as rugby and rugby league. Even on game days, athletes in these sports engage in strength training sessions before hitting the field, reaping the benefits of improved physiological and neurological readiness.
Emotional and Mental Resilience
A critical component of stress resilience in AFL athletes is the development of emotional and mental resilience. Serpell suggests that this begins with mastering basic movement patterns while minimizing the risk of injury. Athletes who can consistently perform on the field rather than being sidelined by injuries can build resilience over time.
Furthermore, Serpell explores the concept of adjusting the hormonal profile to enhance resilience. He refers to research in this area and suggests that promoting testosterone production through proper priming before training sessions can contribute to a more resilient mindset on the field. Stressful conditions become opportunities for growth and adaptation rather than obstacles.
Guidelines for Pre-Game Warm-Ups
For those looking to implement these principles at various levels of football, Serpell offers some practical advice. A good primer with minimal equipment should last around 10 to 15 minutes and consist of explosive movements with low resistance. This pre-game routine can help athletes prepare both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. Additionally, incorporating high-intensity efforts like sprints in the 30 minutes before a game can optimize performance.
Post-Game Recovery for Better Sleep
The article concludes by addressing post-game recovery strategies that can help athletes wind down and get a good night’s sleep. Cherry juice, with its natural melatonin content, is one such strategy. It aids in promoting sleep quality, ensuring athletes can rest adequately after a demanding match.
Serpell also mentions meditation as a valuable tool for post-game relaxation and mental recovery. Establishing a post-game routine that includes mindfulness practices can contribute to improved sleep patterns and overall stress resilience.
In summary, building stress resilience in AFL athletes involves a multifaceted approach. Mentors and sponsors provide guidance and advocacy, while strength training and proper warm-ups enhance physical readiness. Emotional and mental resilience is cultivated through injury prevention and hormonal adjustments. By implementing these strategies and recovery techniques like cherry juice and meditation, AFL athletes can optimize their performance and well-being on and off the field.
By following these guidelines, athletes at all levels, from aspiring juniors to seasoned professionals, can take steps toward building the stress resilience necessary for success in the world of Australian Rules Football.
- Dean Benton
- John Pryor
- Frans Bosch
- Harry Talor
- Scott Murphy
- Paddy Hogben
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Jack McLean is the founder of Prepare Like a Pro. He loves coaching people so that they can reach their personal/professional goals and become the best that they can possibly be. He is currently the Strength & Rehab Coach of Melbourne Football Club and has worked as Strength & Conditioning Coach at Hawthorn Football Club. Jack is a Level 3 Australian Strength & Conditioning Association and Professional Coach and a Level 1 Australian Weightlifting Federation Coach.